Innocent Until Proven Guilty? Don't Count on It: Why You Need a Lawyer Even If You Are Innocent

It's only natural to assume that if you are innocent of a crime you are accused of that you don't need a lawyer. In an ideal world this may be true, but it doesn't always hold true in the real world. Sometimes relying on the old adage "innocent until proven guilty" isn't as clear cut as it seems. If you have been arrested for a crime you didn't commit, that means the prosecution already has evidence and believes it proves your guilt. You will need to do your part to convince the court otherwise. Consider these common reasons innocent people are found guilty of a crime and how a lawyer can help you avoid a conviction.


Eye-witness identification is often viewed as proof of your guilt, but according to The Innocence Project, witness misidentification plays a big role in wrongful convictions. It lists witness misidentification as a major contributing factor in 70 percent of convictions that are later overturned with DNA evidence. There are many reasons for witness misidentification. Your lawyer has the experience and expertise to help you avoid the trap of misidentification by examining the evidence and bringing these common reasons for misidentification to light.

Improper lineups or police questioning. This may include presenting a lineup and asking the witness to identify the suspect without informing the witness that the actual perpetrator of the crime may not be in the lineup. This can cause the witness to choose the person most likely to be the guilty party. Other factors that may lead the witness astray include informing the witness of a suspect (even if he does not fit the witness description) or including that suspect in the lineup and including a suspect (you) in the lineup that stands out in some way, such as being taller, larger, smaller, or a different race from the other subjects.

Misinterpretation of witness statements. Witnesses may indicate that you may be the person they saw or that you could have been the person they saw at the scene, but the information may then be presented to the court as a positive identification.

Faulty memory. Many cases of misidentification result from faulty witness memory. Stress associated with the event, others' reports of what they saw, and even the word choice of the investigator when the witness is questioned all effect the formation of memories and may cause the witness to omit actual details (like a tattoo on the arm) or include details they didn't actually witness (such as the hair color or other personal traits). Your lawyer can point out discrepancies or show how the witness was unable to view this from their position or due to lighting or obstructions.

Misinterpretation of Evidence

Understanding the evidence in a case often relies on scientific knowledge that may be beyond the scope of the average judge or jurors. This opens the door for pseudoscience and assumptions to enter the courtroom. This may include a misunderstanding of medical conditions that may contribute to how your attitude, reaction, or verbal responses contribute to the assumption of guilt, misinterpretation of DNA evidence, or misinterpretation of the details of the crime. For example, a lack of understanding of the role of cognitive impairments may lead to false confessions or false statements in court or a lack of understanding of why a presented scenario could not have happened due to the physics involved may lead jurors astray. Your lawyer has the expertise to enlist the assistance of qualified professionals when such instances occur to help explain misinterpretations of evidence.

Lack of a Fair Trial

Everyone deserves a fair trial, but sometimes things go awry. Misidentification and misinterpretation are only two of the reasons you may not get a fair trial. Procedural errors can occur that may put your trial at risk.  A lawyer can oversee the process and alert you to your rights to ensure you receive a fair trial.

If you have been accused of a crime you did not commit, don't assume you can handle it on your own. Contact a lawyer, such as one from AMS Law Group, to help you navigate the system to make sure you are treated fairly.